Ouimet: The Interior Defensive Line

Former U-M staffer Mark Ouimet talks about the '04 Michigan defensive line.<br><br> "Gabe Watson is the key."

The three down U-M defensive linemen. First the Depth Chart:

Defensive Line
94 Patrick Massey 6-8 276 Sr./Jr.
91 Rondell Biggs 6-2 262 Jr./So.

Defensive Line
78 Gabriel Watson 6-4 333 Jr./Jr.
92 Will Paul 6-3 264 So./Fr.

Defensive Line
96 Larry Harrison 6-3 313 Jr./So.

93 Alex Ofili 6-4 289 Sr./Jr.


"Will the '04 Wolverines be dominating on defense? The defensive line is the biggest question mark. Gabe Watson, Pat Massey, Larry Harrison, and Alex Ofili have to play well. Mainly Gabe -- because there is no real backup to him.

"So Gabe Watson is the key. He's the key because he's the main guy in stopping the run for the '04 defense. He's the run stopper, he has to be. He'll be double teamed all game long, and he has to handle it. Rob Renes could occupy two guys and clog up the lanes inside. Gabe has to do the same. He has to have great year in run support. If they get past Gabe, it's a five yard run. And Gabe has the talent, but with his weight it's his endurance that has been his weakness -- and so his endurance is the big thing for the big man. Gabe is such an important guy, so there has been a lot of pressure on him over the spring and summer to get into tip-top shape and build his endurance. The question is: can he play the whole game? And the answer to that is NO. So the other guys have to step up.

"Larry Harrison and Alex Ofili have to step up to help Gabe -- one to start next to him and the other to sub for him. They have to help stop the run up the middle.

"On the other side of Gabe, Pat Massey can play -- and he has to have a great season. And he's capable of it. His biggest job will he pass rushing -- he has to help get to the quarterback.

"You notice that Michigan is not very deep on the D-line, and they are definitely young. There are no seniors (eligibility-wise) in that group. And those are the five guys, with Rondell Biggs, who have played before and who will play most of the time if they stay healthy.

"Will Paul may not quite be ready -- he's had minor injuries that have held him back some. So he could use some more development of his size and strength. Hopefully he'll be ready to contribute if necessary -- especially as the season progresses.

"And the incoming freshman? You can't really depend on freshmen to contribute on the lines, offensive or defensive.

"So, is there potential on this season's defensive line? Absolutely. They have the athletes, and going to three defensive linemen instead of four will help in this case because Michigan has more outside linebackers than DL's.

"Also, with the defensive backfield Michigan has they will be able to bring Shazor up close to the line some for run support.

"But remember this -- to win the Big Ten, they have to stop the run."

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